Athletic Streaks and Neuroscience

deron williams jumpYesterday evening Deron Williams drained 8-straight 3-point shots at the start of the Brooklyn Nets’ win against the Washinton Wizzards (Nets, my team!). He was ‘hot’. He was on a streak. He was in rhythm. As Deron said, at the end of the streak, “yeah, I was on a heat check”.

Was it a real streak? Was he hot? In synch? If there are streaks, what does that say about human athletic performance and neuroscience?

 Stephen Gould addressed the question* of whether there are streaks in athletic performance 25 years ago in a lovely article in the NY Review of books (1988). Interestingly, Gould focused on two types of streaks: streak shooting in basketball, and Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. He summarized then current work by Arvin Tversky and Ed Purcell, using fairly simple probability techniques. Conclusion: from NBA shot statistics were there no evidence of “hot streaks” or “hot hands” in basketball; but the DiMaggio’s streak was truly unusual. I don’t have ready access to the background work (correction: Golovich et al, 1985**), nor more recent analysis, but I did a back-of-the envelope calculation this morning. 

My calculations: Continue reading


A Fan’s Notes: Ray Rice’s amazing run and what it says about conscious decision making

I’m a big Ray Rice fan. Last Sunday Ray made an amazing run on 4th and 29; some have called it the play of the season. I watched re-runs many times (he said, sheepishly).ray

A few hours later I watched the press conference interview, where he describes what was going thru his mind. Fascinating.

There is debate in Neuroscience about free will and conscious decision making. When we think we are making a deliberative choice, are we fooling ourselves? I believe, generally not.

Continue reading